Bangalore to Hampi

…and back again.

That’s the story of the past week. Sleeper to Hospet on Monday night, not too bad at all, or we’re getting used to it. Hampi is 14km from the train station, about Rs100 by auto-rickshaw. We can now get all our baggage in an auto-rickshaw without too much pain.

Hampi is a really strange place. It’s also known as Vijayanagar and was the capital of the empire of the same name in the 15th and 16th centuries. The landscape is very odd, with huge boulders dominating the landscape.

The area is a mass of abandoned temples and palaces over a 25 site, and the village of Hampi providing accomodation etc in the center.

Temple at Hampi Bazar

We were there until Friday evening, and spent a day or two wandering around the temples and monuments. You can get a bit “templed-out” after a while so we didn’t visit every site by any means.

We stayed at Gopi’s Hotel in Hampi, which was pleasant, though not as cheap as was indicated in the guide books. (Rs500 per night). They do great thalis there though, the “special thali” being almost too big to eat (though I will admit I managed it…)

There were lots of “souvenir” (aka tat) stalls around but we did buy a large brass hanging lamp from the Mango Tree restaurant which we now have to post home. Weighs a ton too.

Friday saw us getting yet another night train, back to Bangalore where we’ve been doing Western-stuff like ordering pizza in our hotel room (Vellara Hotel – on Brigade Road, excellent light, clean room with TV and great bathroom).
We’ve copied all the photos onto a CD which we’ll be posting home. I’ve only uploaded a few of those we’ve taken (we have about 600 on the CD), and I’ve had to reduce the resolution and compress them to make them slightly web-friendly.

We’re flying to Delhi on Tuesday morning (have to be at the airport for 3:50am!) and should then be getting a bus to Dharamshala.

Latest pictures start with this one

Frustrated in Bangalore

Well, this is all very annoying. Here we are in the “high tech capital of India”, in a very swish internet cafe (which we had to pay to join) only to find that you can’t actually read anything off any memory cards etc.

The machine is locked down so that you can only run the applications they choose, and their “digital briefcase” data storage is “being upgraded” (as we all know, that’s just another way of saying “has never really worked”).

So I’ve got some beautiful pictures from Periyar Wildlife Park, of wild elephants, fantastic scenery, amazing views from mountains, strange photos from inside the clouds at Kodaikanal and I can’t touch them! I’ll have another go when we get back to Bangalore at the weekend.

Since the last update we’re spend a night on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala, had a couple of days at Kumily near the Periyar park, and a couple of days in Kodaikanal. In the latter, the weather was cold (max about 8C, minimum was freezing) and because we were at 2100m above sea level, the entire place was shrouded in cloud, which made everything very strange. A bit like being back home in fact.

Tonight we’re going to Hospet (and then on to Hampi) to view the ruins and temples there. We’ll be coming back here at the weekend.

More then…

Kochi, Kerala

Kathakali dancer, Cochin, Kerala

We moved on from Panjim on Sunday, getting a cab to Margao in the south of Goa where we caught a train to Ernakulam Junction.

The train journey took 15 hours, so we were booked into a 3-tier air-conditioned 2nd Class carriage, similar to the one we used to get to Goa from Mumbai.

A nice old couple shared the section with us, helping us out when it looked like the food seller had forgotten our order.

The journey passed peacefully until it got dark and we moved to out bunks. One of the other passengers snored….. like a warthog! All night. Not good.

Even less good was the infestation of cockroaches, who decided that the best place to play hide-and-seek was above the top bunk in which I was residing. I woke in the middle of the night to see several of the critters jiggling about inches from my face, which made it quite difficult to get back to sleep, certainly not helped by the Darth-Vader-with-a-cold impressions coming from the snorer.

We arrived at Ernakulam Junction at about 4:30am, and got a cab to our guesthouse, the very pleasant Chiramel Residency in Fort Kochi.

After sleeping for a few hours, we caught a ferry back across the harbour to Ernakulam and wandered around a bit, still a little dazed from lack of sleep.

That evening we ate at Fort House (another nice place to stay in Fort Cochin) where we had some excellent garlic prawns and dal.

Tuesday was spent checking out what Kochi had to offer, including a visit to the old Synagogue and the “antique” shops around Jew Town. We ate at the very disappointing Addy’s just around the corner from the Chiramel Residency. The food there was very bland and the service wasn’t up to much.

Wednesday saw us visit the Mattancherry Palace (aka Dutch Palace), again in Jew Town followed by a visit to the Kathakali dance performance at the Kathakali centre.

The performance was fascinating, and once you got used to the wordless nature of the play and concentrated on the expressions and movements of the dancer it was very enjoyable.

We followed that with a return to Fort House for more excellent food.

Today we’ve had a slack day, Vic’s bought some more clothes (to replace the ones she sent home last week, no doubt), and I’m here in an Iway internet cafe uploading more pictures while Vic samples the delights of Ayurvedic massage.

Bye Bye, Arambol

We spent New Year’s Eve having an excellent meal of Goan prawn curry at Samantha’s, followed by a brief trip to the Surf Club, which sadly was hosting some awful live music, and finally on to Liquid Sky, a little club/beach-shack which was playing some good music and had a very friendly atmosphere. We’d polished off a few beers before we set out so were well fuelled for the night, finally making it back to Ivon’s at around 3am. Vic was rather worse for wear the next day but has now completely recovered.

I hope you all had an equally good New Year!

We finally bit the bullet and moved on from lovely Arambol yesterday.

We’re now in Panjim, and will get the train from Margao to Kochi in Kerala on Sunday.

Karen and Nils, the couple who were in the next room to us for our last 3 weeks in Arambol also have a website with some pictures of Arambol and other places in India. Their site is in Dutch but is very good even if you can’t read the language.

Beer in Arambol & Goa

There a a few brands of beer available in Arambol. The main two are the nationwide Kingfisher, and the Goan brand pilsner, Kings. Kingfisher tastes a bit chemically, and Kings only seems to be available in the smaller 325ml bottles. Both cost around Rs20-30 for small bottles and Rs40-60 for large 650ml bottles.

Some places also sell Fosters (brewed in India) at the same price as Kingfisher, and another cheap Goan beer called Arlem which has a strange taste like it’s been smoke-damaged.

Food in Arambol

The food available here in Arambol is generally of a very high standard. Most places to a standard range of Indian veg and non-veg dishes such as Dal Makhani, Dal Fry, Kadai Paneer, Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi, Aloo Mutter etc, some “continental” food (e.g. pasta, chicken steaks, pancakes) along with some “israeli” dishes such as humus, falafel. Most also have a variety of fresh seafood cooked in various ways. Quite a few do Tandoori food served with chips and salad (which we find a bit strange).

For breakfast you can anything from a full cooked English breakfast, through to banana pancakes and fruit salad served with muesli and curd.
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Making the tech to work on Windows 98

As we’ve travelled around India we’ve found that many internet cafes here use Windows 98, probably due to it being easier to copy than Windows XP, as well as it not needing much in the way of horsepower on the PC.

We’re carrying two main gadgets: a Canon Ixus 430 camera and my Sony Clie UX50 PDA which I’m using to write the blog. I also have a dual format (Sony MemoryStick and CompactFlash) card reader made by Sandisk which connects to a PC by USB. The card reader works without additional drivers in Windows ME, 2000 and XP but in Win98 requires drivers to be downloaded. Unfortunately, the driver setup file that is needed is almost six megabytes. Why it needs to be so large is anyone’s guess. 6mb takes an age to download at an net cafe (most of which use a single modem with Microsft Internet Connection Sharing) so it isn’t really practical to download drivers everytime we want to use the card reader.
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